Defining moments

I can remember many dates.

Some are easy for me to remember because they relate to events that happened in my life.

I can remember the date I moved to Maine as a teenager.

I can remember the date of my first date with Bryon.

I can remember the date I got married.

I can remember the date my daughter was born.

I can remember the date when Bryon died.

But there are many events in my life where I can’t remember the date.

One of those events happened four years ago today.

I had been anticipating this anniversary, but I needed help from Facebook memories to know exactly what day it was.  Because all I can tell you is that this happened on a Tuesday, two days after Easter.

Truth be told, I don’t look at Facebook Memories very often.  There is a lot of pain in my past.  Even the happy memories bring me pain. Eventually you reach a point where you decide you have had enough of pain and you just have to start staying in the present and move forward.

Kind of like that scene in Love Actually when Mark pretends to be carol singers and holds the cards up to Kiera Knightly, professing his love to her because you have to be honest at Christmas and then she kisses him and he walks off saying “Enough”.

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It kind of like that.

But sometimes you can’t escape thinking about those memories because they are defining moments in our lives.

On this day four years ago, Bryon was in septic shock and his body was beginning to shut down.

He was rushed off to a surgery that the doctors said he may not survive.

He had been in the ICU for 5 days at that point and I had been quiet on social media about his illness.  He was a proud man and I wanted to respect his privacy.  I have questioned that decision.

But in that moment, I only had hope and faith.  So I posted a prayer request on Facebook.

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My life changed that day.

It was the day when I realized that in a matter of moments, everything you had can be taken away from you.

Even if Bryon had survived, I know I never would have been the same.

I think it’s safe to make the assumption that Bryon would not have been the same.  We just don’t know to what extent.

Miraculously, Bryon survived the surgery.  I was hopeful that we were beginning the long road to recovery.

But that moment was really the beginning of the end.  It was the beginning of Bryon’s final chapter. A chapter where he would be hooked up to machines in an ICU.  A chapter where he couldn’t speak and would be too weak to even press the buttons on his TV remote.

Eventually Bryon was moved to another ICU at another hospital in New York City.  I bet he never would have imagined that he’d exit this world in New York City.  Though he was never one to ponder death, aside from showing his concern as to how I would manage if he were to die.  He was always the one to think about long term logistics.  I was the one who made sure milk was in the fridge and that there were enough clean clothes to get us through the following day.

Spoiler alert: I survived and I managed and I am okay.

He was not comfortable with death.  Part of that was the culture of his family of origin.  But sometimes I wonder if he knew on some deep soul level that he wasn’t going to be on Earth for a long time and he didn’t want to think about it.

I was the morbid one in our relationship.  I had no problem talking about death.  Pluto is in my first house.  The darkest planet in the most personal house.

I also come from a Boston Irish family. All of the grandparents came from large Catholic families and I attended many wakes and funerals growing up.  I joke that I grew up at the local funeral home.  Death was never shielded from me.

Four years ago today Bryon started his final chapter, a very painful chapter.  Though we will never know how painful it was to him.

I just know he fought to live.  He fought harder than most people.  I would have given up a lot sooner than he did.  He wanted to live.

He was hooked up to a ventilator and he couldn’t speak.  We never got to discuss what was going on, the what-ifs.  We never got to talk about the possibility of his eventual exit from this world.

If he had any words of wisdom he wanted to share with me and my daughter for our following chapters, he didn’t get to share them.

It’s a piece of closure that I never got and I really needed.  I still need that that closure.  I still struggle to move forward because I never got that closure.

While Bryon entered his final chapter, I also began a chapter that interwined with his chapter.

Our chapters had a lot of the same elements.  The same two main characters, the same minor characters, the same setting, the same medical staff and parade of visitors.  Both chapters had a lot of beeping from machines in the background.

I have no idea how the passage of time felt for Bryon.  I am sure when he was lucid, it went painfully slow.  But there were many days he was out of it due to many episodes of sepsis.

For me time went really slow.  Day by day, sometimes hour by hour.  Just sitting in my own thoughts, unable to focus on much.  I read a few fluffy novels and I did organize all my pinterest boards. I organized all those recipes that I never got to cook for Bryon.

I have tried to explain to people what those 5 months were like.

It’s impossible.

I made the mistake of assuming that friends who visited a lot understand.  Most didn’t. Very few people from that period actually understood the true impact of Bryon’s final chapter.  Those people who do understand will always be held close to my heart.

I should have realized early one that my chapter is just that.  My chapter.  Pain meant to be shouldered by myself.

When you think about it, most people were just there for many key, pivotal moments.  But they weren’t there for the day by day.  That was me.

I try not to think about that chapter.  Yes, I was there for him through sickness and in health, but I’d rather remember him as healthy Bryon.

No one really asks about those days and can we blame them.  If they did ask me, they’d probably quickly regret it.  It’s probably for the best because I usually cry and that’s awkward.

And here we are now.

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And we are in the middle of a pandemic.

I feel like I am living in some sort of parallel surrealistic universe to the life I lived in 2016.

There is a medical crisis.

A Presidential Election Season is going on, albeit in the background.

There is a lot of talk about ventilators.

We are desperately seeking a cure or at least a solution.

Hand sanitizer and hand-washing are very important.  In 2016, I didn’t want to spread ICU germs to my toddler and I did not want to spread daycare germs to my critically ill husband in the ICU so everything was sanitized.  In 2020, I am careful to wipe down everything I bring into the house from Wal-Mart with a Clorox wipe.

In 2016, it was a treat to grab a coffee at the on-site Dunkin or Starbucks.  In 2020, it is a treat to grab Dunkin from the drive-thru, (paid via app, no cash or card touched by hands and my cup is immediately wiped with a Clorox wipe.  I keep a canister in my car.)

In some ways, 2020 feels just like 2016.  I am living day by day.

But this time I am not alone.

We are all living day by day, sometimes hour by hour.  The whole world.

This event is going to change us all.  Whether we want to admit or not.  We will never be the same.

2020 is a bizarre chapter with the plot twist you never saw coming.

I want to tell everyone that everyone is going to be okay.  But that is a lie.

So many people are going to become critically ill.  But their families won’t be with them because they will likely be quarantined.  That is painful for me to think about.

As I type this, 33,966 people have exited this world and this pandemic is still in the early stages.  The number will be higher by the time you read this.

I can’t help but think of the magnitude of Bryon’s death and then multiply that magnitude by 33,966.

33,966 families and social circles are grieving.

If you are reading this and have lost someone to COVID-19, please accept my heartfelt condolences.

And even if no one close to you dies, it is still okay to grieve.  The world you knew is gone.  It is okay to be scared.  A disease that we don’t have a cure yet is a scary thing.

But my message isn’t all doom and gloom.

For those of us that survive, I can tell you that we will be okay.  Everything has changed and everything seems so different.  You will adapt.

We are all so much stronger than we think we are.

Don’t be afraid of the growth you are going to experience.  We are humans,  we are meant to grown and evolve.

Bryon’s death forced me to grow and evolve.  I am still growing and evolving.  And now we get an opportunity to grow and evolve as a community.

In some ways, it like a gift.  A painful gift, but still a gift.

This is our defining moment.

A Very Widowed Valentine’s Day #4

Warning: This post contains a lot of dark humor.  If that is going to bother you, then you should just stop reading.  If you ignore this advice and this post pisses you off, that’s okay.

I just don’t want to hear about it.

That previous statement, my friends, is called honesty.

Now any of you reading this that new Bryon and were lucky enough to be friends with him on social media, then you would know every Valentine’s Day he posted this meme on Facebook.

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He was a romantic one.

But on Valentine’s Day, I usually take the time to reflect on that one thing that makes Valentine’s Day, well, Valentine’s Day.

My first Widowed Valentine’s Day, I spent the afternoon at my two-year-old daughters class party.

My second Widowed Valentine’s Day, I reflected on the fact that Bryon sent me a sign through the form of a Vagisil ad and the fact that I have baggage.

My third Widowed Valentine’s Day, I was on strike and you did not get a blog post.  I needed my space at that time.  It wasn’t you.  It was me.

So here I am – Widowed Valentine’s Day #4.

The bummer is that I don’t get to tag along to my daughter’s school party because she’s in kindergarten now.

We made Valentine’s with glow sticks.

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(Trust me, it seemed like a good idea two weeks ago).

I know of at least one other classmates that has tattoo Valentines.   Sounds like I am missing one wild party.

So it’s Widowed Valentine’s Day #4 and I have been reflecting.  Well, reflecting on Valentine’s Day and also obsessively watching the news of the Coronavirus and thinking about the worst possible outcome.  Because I am fun like that.

So where am I?

Well, I am still single. Much to my daughter’s dismay.  She is trying to marry me off.  Girl wants a Dad.

Note: I would have to date a guy for a very long time before he ever meets her.  I once had a friend who was a single mom and she dated around (and by “date around” I really mean “slept around”) and would parade these men around her daughter.  I remember her daughter asking one of these men if they were going to be her new dad.  That scene has always stayed with me.

If you have been a longtime reader of my blog, you would know I have dabbled in the dating apps, here and there.

I have never had much luck.

This fall I was talking to one guy.  Charlotte and I referred to him as “Patriots Guy.”

So I pretty much narrowed it down to almost any man in New England.

Then I started to feel red flags.

Since I tend to attract narcissists, I ended that one quickly.  It was so bizarre.  It was like he was trying to pin me into a relationship before even going on a date.  Sorry, Dude.  I know my worth and I am  worth a steak dinner.

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Or Mexican.  Tacos are good.

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I felt those spidey feelings.  It wasn’t even a relationship and I needed space.  It dawned on me that I would have to someday tell this guy my story (there are people who don’t read this blog.  Shocking, I know!) and I didn’t want to tell him my story.  Not because I didn’t want to share my story.  I just didn’t want to share my story with him.

I don’t know any of this dating etiquette bullshit.  I wanted to ghost Patriots Guy but Charlotte said I had to “break up” even thought were weren’t even dating.

Eff me.

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So I messaged him.  I told him that I just wasn’t interested in continuing our communication.  He then wrote back and said that was crazy and he felt so comfortable, yada, yada, yada.   I didn’t respond.  Since I knew he received the message, I blocked communication.

Done.

I took a break for a bit.

Then I tried again.  Around Christmas.

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Now I like Seinfeld.  There are even a few references in this blog post.

Seinfeld was the show that 1990’s Kerry and 2000s Kerry could compare everything in life too.

Eventually, How I Met Your Mother Filled that position.

Every situation in life can be linked to an episode of How I Met Your Mother including….

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The Dead Spouse!

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This time I stuck with it for a little longer.  I tried to persevere.  But men around here must not be attracted to me.

This man dazzled me with his conversation skills.

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Now to be clear- from the moment I saw the first message of “Hi”, I made the decision that I was only going to return the level of energy I was receiving.

So now I am on break again.

Am I discouraged?  A little.

I miss having a person, but I don’t want a man for the sake of having a man.

This dating app silliness has me reflecting on what I lost.

Not just the things I liked about him, like the fact that he was intelligent, funny, stylish, masculine.

I miss our bond.

I don’t get jealous when I see married couples, but sometimes my heart aches a bit.  I miss my husband, but sometimes I feel that it has been so long that I don’t wouldn’t know how to be part of a couple anymore.

Most married couples just seem so carefree and non traumatized to me.

Even if I managed to partner up again, I have lived through a very traumatic experience.  I am going to worry if that man would die.

My brain kind of wants to make a morbid coronavirus joke here because I am a twisted person, but I also know that so much is unknown about the coronavirus and it could potentially cause a pandemic so I am not going to make coronavirus joke here.  That would be in poor taste.

For the record, spellcheck does not recognize coronavirus.  Just in case you were wondering.

I have ADHD.  Can you tell?

It’s also 2 am and way past my bedtime.

So I am going to get to my point.

My marriage ended through Bryon’s illness and death.  It broke my heart.

But I can also say that I know what it is like to feel the love of something who fighting to stay alive so they can be with you.

It gives me a whole new appreciate for what we had and even though I miss Bryon, I am grateful for the love he gave me, up until his last minute on Earth and beyond.

Maybe someday I will meet my Hometown Hallmark Hunk with whom I will discover what it feels like to love again.

Until then, the official status of my mood is “eh”.

Why I don’t play the “what if” game (4-minute read)

My husband, Bryon passed away in 2016.

His illness had come as a shock.  His body went into shock and he almost died at the beginning but he survived.

He did have an uphill battle ahead of him.  He spent 5 months in the ICU fighting for his life.

I knew death was a potential outcome but I really thought he was going to make it through.  But it didn’t work out that way.

After Bryon died, my mind tried to make sense of what had just happened.

I was trying to figure out what my “new normal” was.

As I was trying to figure out my new life, I kept comparing it to my old life.  My old life was the only point of reference I knew.

And every time I would have to make any sort of decision, I would imagine what Bryon would think of the situation.  After all, we spent almost every day together for the past 8 years and he wasn’t only my spouse.  He was my best friend.  We talked about everything.

Bryon was on my mind a lot.

 

While one is never free of grief, the emotions usually ease up over time.  Some say time heals all wounds.  I don’t discount that theory but I think that the easing of emotions over time can be attributed to the fact that you begin to get used to them being gone.

But in those early days, I was wondering what the *bleep* had just happened to my life.

I found myself wondering what if Bryon were still alive.  What would he say?  What would he do?  What would our life be like?

I would watch our TV shows and wonder what he’d think of the plotline.  Or how hard he’d laugh at one of the jokes.

As the Election of 2016 unfolded, I wondered what he would have thought of it all.

In the beginning, it was easy to bridge the gap from “new life” to “old life”.  I was in our house with our daughter (who was still a toddler) and our cat and I was among all our belongings.  Our friends were around.  I was essentially living our life…without him.

It was very easy to slip back into the past, even if it was only in my mind.

But over time, things began to change.

My daughter got older.  Even though my role as a mother changed when I went from co-parent to solo parent, my role as a mother changed as I observed my toddler turning into a pre-schooler.

I started to give away and donate items of his that I didn’t need or want.  Though this was a lengthy process as Bryon saved everything and there was a lot of sentiment attached to his possessions.

I got a new job where I could work from home.  If he was still alive, I couldn’t work from home.  He sometimes worked from home and he joked that we couldn’t both work from home.

Many friends drifted away.  I also learned that many of “our friends” were really just his friends and those friendships crumbled.

Over time, my home stopped feeling like home.  I began to feel as alien in New York then as I did when I moved there in 2009.

I realized “our life” no longer existed and that I was fooling myself thinking I could reconstruct a life out of the remnants of “our old life”.

I changed.  I grew.  I am not the same person I was.

My life has been a revolving door of change.

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Change has been the only constant.

I had to grieve the life I once knew.

But now my life path has meandered.  It is a lot harder to think “If Bryon was here…” because if Bryon were alive, I wouldn’t be where I was.

I know Bryon is always with me in that esoteric kind of way but I am very removed from the life we had.

I can’t wonder “what if” anymore.

The only thing wondering “what if” will accomplish is denying me happiness in my current life.

I can’t move forward if I am constantly looking back.

It doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate our memories.

It doesn’t mean that I can’t cry when I miss him or that I can’t laugh when I think of a funny memory.

It doesn’t mean that I have to stop loving him.

I know that wherever Bryon is, he would want me to be happy.

After everything I have been through, the least I can do is let myself be happy.

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Weekly Gratitude #10: Three Years

Today is my blog’s birthday.

I started this blog as a way to process and cope with all the emotions I was feelings 5 months post-loss.  I was starting to “wake up” from the grief fog and I felt the need to share my emotions as I have noticed a dearth of information to help young widows.  I wanted my information out there so if another widow stumbled across it, they would know that they were not alone.

I also felt the need to share my story because I wanted others to understand the emotions that a widowed person felt, at least from my perspective.  After all, that is the only perspective I can honestly offer.

So much has changed since that time.

At that time I was somewhere between existing and surviving.

Now I am a survivor and on some days, I might even consider myself to be thriving.

Some locations in my story have changed.

Some characters in my story are the same, but some characters are different. I don’t doubt that all the characters in my life are there (or have been there) for a reason.

When I started this blog, my daughter was a toddler.  Now she is a kindergartener.

As I reread some of my earlier blog posts, I feel that strange dichotomy that widows feel.  The dichotomy where my old life and my old self feel current and they exist alongside my new life and new self.

My last two sentences of my first blog post really hit me hard.

“A part of me died with him that morning.  This is the story of the part of me that is still living.”

At that point in time, my soul was completely fractured.  I felt like an empty shell of who I was and I had no clue how I was going to move forward.

Now it is three years later.  I have survived.  I have grown.

Yes, a part of me may have died the same morning Bryon did but the part of me that is still living has forged ahead.

She has grown back into a whole, albeit different, person.

I want to thank all of you who have been a part of this ride.  As I said the other day, nothing ever lasts forever.  But I appreciate all of you who continue to travel this journey with me.

Weekly Gratitude #8: Christmas with the Casales

I had two Rounds of Christmas this year.

I had my Christmas here in Maine which has been shown prominently on my Instragram. (Can you blame me?  I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world.  I am going to Instagram that shit)

Then I had Christmas in New York with my New York family.

My New York family is not biologically related to me.  But these people were there with me during Bryon’s last hours on this planet. They were with me at the funeral home when I picked out Bryon’s casket, helped write his obituary and made sure that his funeral had an open bar with wristbands.

They have been there for me throughout the darkest of my days and have never asked for anything in return, nor have they thrown it in my face.

And I know these people love my daughter more than most people on this planet.

I feel really awkward calling them “these people.”  They are so much more than that, but I don’t feel comfortable using people’s real names in my blog.  Usually, I ask people for input on their blog nicknames, but it is almost midnight as I write this and I don’t want to wake them. Especially since I may have woken them up with this hysterical picture of my daughter putting her sweatshirt on backwards.

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It was a rough morning.  First day back at school after the holidays.  My daughter and I laughed for a solid 5 minutes when this was happening and I wanted to share it with her Godmother and eventually the whole internet.

There we go.  I will refer to one half of “Those people” as her Godmother and the other half as Mr. Uncle V.

I did use their surname in the blog title, but that was because I am a bit of a word nerd and I enjoy the aesthetics of alliteration.

I am grateful for the time we got to spend in NY with our NY family.

Yes, they have always treated us like family and their extended family has always welcomed us.

Yes, they have a beautiful house and they served lots of amazing food.

Downton Abbey has nothing on them, except Mr. Bates.  I may have a bit of a crush on Mr. Bates.  I would have been alright if Mr. Bates was walking around.

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I also got to observe how homemade pasta was made.  It blew my Irish-American mind.  And it was delicious too.

I enjoyed a delicious drink called Rum, Rum, Runaway and drank some good wine.

My daughter’s Godmother and Mr. Uncle V are such great people and they are always surrounded by great people.  This makes sense since like attracts like.  I know they are busy, but they still always find time for people, including my daughter and me.

They are literally two of the smartest people I know.

And some of the most fun people I know as demonstrated by late-night games of Family Feud.

Sometimes I struggle with the whole concept of putting the past behind me and moving into the future. Sometimes I have to “numb out” to the past or else I will never move forward and my mind will go on like it’s binge-watching all the seasons of  This is Us only it’s Bryon that’s dead and not Jack Pearson.

It gets complicated when it comes to certain relationships.  Some people have left my life willingly.  Some were toxic and I had to proactively cut out of my life.

But some people I want to stay though sometimes the forces of life just feel like I am supposed to choose between past and present.

And I am grateful that there are people in my life who want to stay with me for the wild and bumpy ride.  People who love me enough that they want to see me thrive.  People who loved Bryon and also knew how deep my love was for Bryon, but they also want to see me move forward.

It might be a shocker, but not everyone feels that way.

Like, life dealt me this shitty hand and I am not supposed to grow from the experience.

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Being around my friends and their family and friends (now my friends…I think…I hope…) made me realize that I don’t have to give up that piece of my life.  I have spent so much time getting reacquainted with my younger self and my present self, but I have to accept that those political years are just as much a part of me as the younger years.

I am grateful I got to spend the Holidays with them.  And I am also grateful for the clarity I got about my life from being around them.

Hope

New Years Eve has always been one of my favorite holidays.

It isn’t because of the booze. Though booze certainly can make the night more interesting and add to the excitement.

I am not against a boozy New Years Eve. But if chose to drink… please drink responsibly.

The real reason I Iove New Years Eve is that the feeling of hope and optimism that the next year will be better than the last.

What does it mean to be hopeful?

For me I always hoped for love, wealth, travel and happiness. I think that is natural to hope for those things but did I even know what I was hoping for?

I think back to what I used to hope for and it just seems so innocent.

Sometimes I am ashamed at how simple my emotional worldview was. So black and white. I thought I had everything figured out when really I had about 7-10% of life figured out. (And no one has life 100% figured out.)

But how can hold this against my younger self? She didn’t know. That wasn’t her fault. 

I don’t want to be arrogant towards my younger self but I didn’t understand how powerful hope can be until I experienced true despair.

New Years 2017 I was just hoping that I was going to survive and that maybe “IT” wouldn’t hurt as much.

Since 2017 I have hoped for continued survival, healing and for my daughter to thrive. I have hoped for happiness. I have hoped for a sense of home. I have hoped for stability, security and safety.

I have hoped for answers. Though I know I will never get the answers I need.

I have desires but I struggle to hope for them.

I have come to realize that in order to hope for something, you need to have faith that you can receive it.

It’s hard to hope when you don’t have faith.

Why hope for love and happiness when it can all be taken away, sometimes at a moments notice?

At the eve of a new decade, I find myself at a very strange spot. It’s a place I have never been before.

Parts of my old optimism are starting to come through but it’s hard to reconcile that optimism with the harsh reality that I have lived through.

We live in a society where time is perceived as linear and that it is easy to let go but my experience has proved that both of those perceived truths are not 100% true.

I am struggling to let go of the past partly because I fear I will never experience happiness again.

So that bring me to this point- New Years 2020.

A new decade.

I feel grossly unprepared.

I live to have a plan and set goals, preferably goals that have measurable outcomes.

I always want to better myself. That is a constant.

I used to be a dreamer but I haven’t had a dream in a very long time.

I have spent too much time letter what happened to me define me.

I want to be a dreamer again. I want to hope again and believe that I can be happy again. That it won’t seem ridiculous to hope for love, happiness, wealth and travel.

It’s a tall order.

All I know is after the past 3.5 years, something has got to change.

Another year over and a new one just begun

I didn’t have many expectations for 2019.

I had a rough 2018.  I mean…on top of everything else I was dealing with.  Because I needed more crap in my life.

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I went into 2019 with low expectations.

2019 was a year of change though I have felt stagnant in many areas.  I hope to see more movement in 2020.

Maybe 2019 was a little rough at time but I am not wishing that the door hits it on the way out.

What 2019 meant to me-

Change.  If there was one word to sum up the year 2019, it would be “change.”   Everything changed.  The changes will continue into 2020 and beyond.

Growth. 2019 has been a year of growth, especially with all this change.  I have learned a lot about myself this year and plan on continuing.  I have also watched my daughter grow since she started kindergarten. The downside of growth is that I have a lot of wounds in my life revealed to me but those wounds will make me stronger.

Friendship.  2019 was a year of revelations on friendship. I was burned by some close friends in 2018.  I was hurt and angry.  Some of it still doesn’t make sense but I had to learn that people believe what they want to believe, even if it is false.  I am no longer angry at those people.  I wish them the best in their lives and for all the happiness.  We just won’t play a role in each others life.  It took me a while to feel safe letting others in but those who are in my life now have proved that friendships still exists.  Friends who love me for me and I love them for being them.  I will continue to cherish those friends.

2019 was a year when phoniness was exposed and it was a time to be Real.  I hope I am better at seeing through phony people  Maybe I am kidding myself.

2019 was a year where I had to learn the balance between remembering and letting go.  I know I need to keep moving forward but with every step forward I take, I have to let go of Bryon and that still hurts.  A lot.

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What is in store for 2020?

Do we really know?

I definitely think there will be more change and growth.  I also hope there will be continued friendship.  I look forward to seeing my daughter grow.  I plan to put some energy into my self care and self love.

Look for those topics on the blog.

Stay tuned!

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